In a Monday night football meeting with playoff implications, the Denver Broncos wll play the Cincinnati Bengals.
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A few thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals’ 30-0 victory over the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium:
What it means: When they found out they would have to prepare for rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel this week, the Bengals had no idea what to expect. They knew all about Manziel’s exploits as a Heisman Trophy winner, but since he hadn’t started an NFL game yet and only had 17 snaps of regular-season film, preparing for him was difficult. Would he still be apt to escape the pocket and run when he probably would be better served to pass? Would he be a good passer? Deep down, it didn’t matter much to the Bengals, who completely overwhelmed the young quarterback. Manziel was sacked three times, threw two interceptions and compiled a 27.3 passer rating. Overall, the Bengals, still on the playoff bubble, had a truly physical win in their first road shutout since December 2008. The Bengals’ last three road shutouts have all come in Cleveland.
Big boost from D: Clearly, Cincinnati’s defense trended upward this week after giving up 25 points in a fourth-quarter collapse last week against Pittsburgh. In addition to stifling Manziel, the Bengals quieted the Browns’ run. Cleveland finished with 107 total yards. They had 98 entering their one-play last drive.
Game ball: Five weeks after he said the Browns weren’t very good following their 24-3 win against Cincinnati, Bengals rookie running back Jeremy Hill let his play do the emphatic talking Sunday. He ran 25 times for 148 yards and two touchdowns in the win. He set the tone early in the game, too, putting up two rushing scores before halftime. At the end of one of them, a Browns fan pushed Hill’s helmet down when the back tried to leap into the stands where a couple of Bengals fans had lured him over. It was clearly a statement type of performance for Hill, who had just 55 yards in the teams’ last meeting at the start of November. His fellow running back, Giovani Bernard, finished the game with 79 yards on 15 carries after being demoted earlier this week from the No. 1 back duties.
Kirkpatrick breaks out: Placed down on the Bengals’ depth chart behind three 30-something former first-round picks, third-year cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick has been itching for a chance to prove himself in the secondary. He has admitted in the past to being a little frustrated by his placement on the depth chart. On Sunday, he had plenty of chances to prove himself. Aside from a 32-yard pass he allowed to Josh Gordon, Kirkpatrick played well, intercepting a pass and deflecting another. On the first-half pickoff, he made a great read when Manziel rolled left and stared down that side of the field. After dropping off his receiver, Kirkpatrick changed direction and sprinted in front of him as Manziel threw his way. On the ensuing drive, the Bengals took a 10-0 lead on a 44-yard Mike Nugent field goal, one of three he had six days after his father died suddenly.
What’s next? Cincinnati will get an extra day off this week as its push for the postseason continues. The Bengals welcome the Denver Broncos to Paul Brown Stadium next Monday night for their home finale on ESPN. It will be their first game against the defending AFC champions since 2012, when the Broncos won 31-23. Denver also has won the past four meetings, and is the winner of 12 of the last 15. With help in Week 17, a win against Denver could give the Bengals the AFC’s No. 2 seed.
A few thoughts from the Denver Broncos’ 22-10 victory over the San Diego Chargers in Qualcomm Stadium.
What it means: For the first time in franchise history, the Broncos have won four consecutive AFC West titles. The victory also clinched the playoff spot that comes with the division title and keeps the Broncos, at 11-3, on the inside track for a playoff bye. The victory also gives the Broncos season sweeps over the Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs. The Broncos have just one AFC West game remaining, against the Oakland Raiders, in Denver in the regular-season finale.
Stock watch: The Broncos continue to show they have the patience to play a run-first game and C.J. Anderson continues to show he has the mentality and physical strength to be the lug-it guy. Anderson, who missed some practice time this past week because of a left ankle injury, didnâ€™t have any double-take runs against the Chargers’ defense. Bu with quarterback Peyton Manning feeling ill before the game and leaving the lineup late in the first half because of a thigh injury, Anderson continued to grind away on a day when the Broncos needed him to grind away.
Depth tested on defense: Just when the Broncos thought they would finally have their defense back at full strength with Danny Trevathan back in the lineup, their depth chart was tested again. Linebacker Brandon Marshall, the Broncos’ leading tackler, left the game late in the first half with a foot injury and did not return. That put Trevathan, who was playing in his first game since the Broncosâ€™ victory against the New York Jets in October, back in the base defense. The Broncos had hoped to play Trevathan in the specialty packages in his first game back. Todd Davis, a player the Broncos claimed off waivers last month, was in both the base defense and the nickel after Marshallâ€™s injury.
Game ball: With Manning not 100 percent physically, left tackle Ryan Clady out of the game with a thigh injury and the Chargers doing their best to slow the Broncosâ€™ passing game, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas found a way to shake himself loose over and over again. By the time he scored on a 28-yard touchdown reception late in the third quarter, he had his eighth 100-yard game of the season, which tied him with Rod Smith for the most 100-yard games in a season in franchise history.
Whatâ€™s next: The Broncos find themselves tied with the New England Patriots with an 11-3 record, but a game behind the Patriots in the race for home-field advantage because of a head-to-head loss on Nov. 2. So a trip to face the Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 22 in the “Monday Night Football” finale could be a must-win for the Broncos to have a chance at home-field advantage or a postseason bye week.
For a few snaps the Denver Broncos had the defensive lineup they’ve been waiting for Sunday, but both Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall suffered injuries during the 22-10 victory over the San Diego Chargers.
Trevathan’s star-crossed season is over after he suffered a dislocated left kneecap in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win. Trevathan has suffered two separate fractures in the same leg already this season.
As a result of the previous injuries, Sunday’s game was just Trevathan’s third of the season.
“This game is though … Danny has had a rough season with his knee issues,” said Broncos head coach John Fox Monday. “Sometimes setbacks are set-ups for better things to come, that will be his mindset as he gets ready for surgery and pretty strenuous rehab to come back. We feel like he’ll do a great job.”
The Denver Broncos are 6-2 SU and ATS in their last eight games as a road favorite. The Broncos will be the road favorite this Monday night visiting the Cincinnati Bengals.
Cincinnati is 4-0 SU in its last four games as a home underdog since going 0-4 SU and ATS in its previous four instances as a home dog. The Broncos are 13-2 SU in their last 15 games against Cincinnati but just 3-5 ATS in their last eight games against the Bengals. The OVER is 9-3 in Cincinnati’s last 12 games as a home underdog.
The Cincinnati Bengals sport a record of 9-4-1 and 7-6-1 ATS heading into this betting matchup, while the Denver Broncos sit at 11-3 and 7-7 ATS on the season. The over under totals records are 5-9 for the Bengals and 8-6 for the Broncos.
– How Denver Broncos vs Cincinnati Bengals Stats Matchup
Offensively, the game matches up the Cincinnati Bengals No. 16-ranked offense (22.21 PPG) against a Denver Broncos defense that ranks No. 16 at 21.64 PPG. The Bengals passing attack has averaged 218.14 yards per game, less than the Broncos give up through the air (237.79 YPG on average).
Defensively, the Denver Broncos feature the league’s No. 1-rated road run defense, allowing 69.14 yards per game. The Cincinnati Bengals, meanwhile, ranks No. 4 in rushing offense at home.
– Denver Broncos vs Cincinnati Bengals Betting Odds Trends
Denver is 5-1 SU in its last 6 games
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Denver’s last 5 games
Denver is 7-3 ATS in its last 10 games on the road
Denver is 16-5 SU in its last 21 games on the road
Cincinnati is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Cincinnati’s last 6 games
Cincinnati is 12-4-1 ATS in its last 17 games at home
Cincinnati is 1-3-1 ATS in its last 5 games at home
Several historical obstacles stand in the way of the Cincinnati Bengals ahead of their key matchup against the Denver Broncos.
They haven’t won in primetime, can’t seem to beat the Broncos and are winless against Peyton Manning.
Should the Bengals reverse those trends when they host Denver on Monday night, they will clinch their fourth consecutive postseason berth.
Cincinnati (9-4-1) is coming off its strongest overall performance after cruising to a 30-0 drubbing of Cleveland on Sunday. Jeremy Hill picked up AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors after rushing for 148 yards and two touchdowns, and the defense forced rookie Johnny Manziel into two interceptions and just 80 passing yards.
Now the focus switches to a much more tenured quarterback.
“It’s going to be a big shift, safe to say,” coach Marvin Lewis said of facing Manning. “It’s a challenge. He gets everyone’s attention in this building right away. The player he is, how he carries himself, how he runs things on the field – it’s going to be a great challenge for us. It’s what it’s supposed to be in December, just like this.”
Manning is 8-0 in his career against the Bengals, most recently completing 27 of 35 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-23 win over Cincinnati on Nov. 4, 2012.
That victory was the latest in a long line of dominance for Denver in the series – even without Manning at the helm. The Broncos beat Cincinnati in Andy Dalton’s second career start in 2011 after needing a last-minute, tip-drill 87-yard touchdown pass to move past the Bengals in 2009. Denver has won 13 of the last 15 meetings with Cincinnati.
“We have to get through this game before we have any opportunities at January,” Lewis said. “It’s been (a playoff mentality) for the last seven weeks, since Halloween. Preparation and how you go about it, and the confidence of knowing what to do and how to do it allows you to play fast. That’s the most important thing, for us: to play fast, to play physical, to play smart.”
Denver (11-3) has already punched its ticket to the postseason, but a first-round bye and home-field advantage remain at stake. The Broncos can clinch the bye with a win, but would need to jump New England (11-3) in the standings for the AFC’s top seed. They beat San Diego 22-10 on Sunday to secure their fourth consecutive AFC West championship.
“It’s our goal every year. Everybody’s hope and dream before the season is you’ll be hoisting that championship trophy,” coach John Fox said. “We got close last year and came up short … Obviously, (the AFC West title) is a great accomplishment, but we still have more season left.”
Despite having Manning under center, the Broncos have won four straight behind a well-established run game. Since falling in St. Louis on Nov. 16, Denver has rushed for 164.8 yards per game, including a 111-yard effort against the Chargers.
Manning rebounded from his first zero-touchdown performance with Denver in a win over Buffalo on Dec. 7, completing 14 of 20 attempts for 233 yards and a TD while playing through an illness. He expects to be fully healthy against the Bengals, whom he has torched for 20 touchdowns in his career while throwing just five interceptions.
Cincinnati’s run-heavy offense will face a stout challenge from Denver, which ranks among league leaders with 71.6 rushing yards allowed per game. Led by Hill and Giovanni Bernard, the rushing attack has amassed 145.3 yards per game and six TDs since Week 12.
Denver has been less imposing against the pass but made sure to lock down top cover corner Chris Harris Jr., signing the fourth-year player to a five-year, $42.5 million extension last week. He’ll be rewarded with a matchup against A.J. Green and a Bengals passing attack that has failed to top 300 yards in eight of the last nine games.
“We know these next two games are going to be big,” said Dalton, whose 82.9 rating ranks 16th of 20 NFL quarterbacks with at least 400 attempts. “The way our division is going, everyone keeps winning … We know what we are facing. They are really important.”
Cincinnati has been blown out twice in primetime this season, losing 43-17 at New England in a Sunday night game Oct. 5 and 24-3 to the Browns on Thursday night Nov. 6.
Denver’s primetime results have been quite the opposite. The Broncos are 4-0 in night games this season, most recently defeating Kansas City 29-16 on Nov. 30.
The Broncos and Bengals last met with postseason implications on Christmas Eve 2006. Trailing by seven with under a minute remaining, Carson Palmer threw a 10-yard TD pass to trim it to 24-23, but the snap was botched on the extra-point attempt and Cincinnati ultimately missed the playoffs by one game.
*Keys to the game: Rookie RB Jeremy Hill created a positive shift in the Bengalsâ€™ offense, bringing consistent punch behind a strong offensive line and daring defenses not to make stopping him a priority. As teams take notice, WR A.J. Green has averaged 115.6 yards per game in the last five weeks.
Takeaways dealt Denverâ€™s knockout punch last week in San Diego, as a pair of interceptions finished off the Chargers and boosted the Broncosâ€™ total to nine during their current four-game winning streak. With bookend pass rushers DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller both over 10 sacks this season, the goal is to force QB Andy Dalton to panic.
The Bengals are protecting the ball well, but in their four losses and a tie against Carolina, they have 11 giveaways, an average of 2.2 per game).
Denver is getting great results from its own shift to a power-running emphasis with 37 rushing attempts on average the past four weeks. With wintry weather in the forecast, the Broncos would be thrilled to add Ronnie Hillman (foot) back to the backfield mix and call on QB Peyton Manning to play it safe with short crossers and sideline throws.
*Matchup to watch â€“ Hill vs. Broncos LB Brandon Marshall: One of the reasons why the Broncosâ€™ run defense has lingered among the leagueâ€™s leaders all season â€” itâ€™s second in the league and leads the AFC in yards per rush (3.41) and per game (71.6) allowed â€” is because Marshall emerged as a reliable tackler who prevented runs from reaching the second level. Hill averages 5.0 yards per carry and has run for at least 148 yards in three of his last seven games, averaging 97.4 yards in that span.
*Player spotlight â€“ Broncos CB Chris Harris Jr.: Aqib Talib has the household name in the Denver secondary, but Harrisâ€™ man coverage skills that netted him a long-term deal with the Broncos are the reason heâ€™ll likely get the call to chase Green.
*Fast facts: Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is 1-5 against the Broncos. â€¦ The Bengals are 13-2-1 in their past 16 home games. â€¦ Manning is 8-0 all-time vs. Cincinnati.
The Denver Broncos play their final road game of the regular season on Monday night when they take on the Cincinnati Bengals. After struggling on the road early in the season, the Broncos have won two straight and can finish the year at 5-3 away from home with a win over the Bengals.
The game versus the Bengals has a strange tone to it for the Broncos. In theory it means something because they still have a shot at the number one seed in the AFC if the New England Patriots were to lose one of their two remaining games. Realistically, however, the Patriots are unlikely to lose to either the New York Jets or Buffalo Bills, and that fact makes the game versus the Bengals almost meaningless. The Broncos do need to win one of their final two games to secure the second-seed but with a home game versus the Oakland Raiders in the final week of the season, the number two seed is all but assured.
With that said, the Broncos are playing their best all-around football of the season and would like to keep winning heading into the playoffs. Here are the three keys to do just that.
Keep rolling: As just mentioned, the Broncos are playing great football right now. Theyâ€™ve won their last four games, three by double-digits and their defense is starting to dominate.
Thereâ€™s no doubt that the Broncos would like to get their passing game going a little more but thereâ€™s no reason to change anything. The Bengals might be the perfect team for Peyton Manning and his receivers to get things rolling again. They rank in the middle of the pack in pass defense and have given up a number of big plays.
The receivers are finally all healthy and assuming Manning does not have another bout with the flu, the Broncos should enjoy success through the air. Even if the Broncos are able to throw the ball effectively, itâ€™s important that they keep pounding the running game as well. If they can do both versus the Bengals, then the Broncos will walk out of Cincinnati at 12-3.
Pressure: Bengals quarterback, Andy Dalton has talent but heâ€™s also more up and down than a roller coaster. If the Broncos can stop the run and force Dalton into obvious passing situations, then the mistakes will come.
As greaty as the Broncos defense has been playing in recent weeks, their pass rush has been too inconsistent. If they are going to go deep in the playoffs, then they have to get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Dalton has been known to hold onto the ball too long so Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware must take advantage of that fact.
The Bengals are also prone to committing turnovers in â€œbigâ€ games and if the Broncos, who have forced eight turnovers in the past three games, can get a couple on Monday night then they might win in a rout.
Stay healthy: This key is one that you typically see in the preseason but it is applicable here. The Broncos have been bitten by the injury bug in recent weeks but it appears as if they are starting to get healthy at the right time. Even linebacker, Brandon Marshall appears to have avoided serious injury and should be ready for the playoffs.
The Broncos are going to play to win on Monday as they should but any player who is questionable going into the game should be held out, and any player who is injured during the game should be taken out as well.
The truth is the Bengals need this game a lot more than the Broncos and that fact will keep it close. If the Jets pull a miracle and upset the Patriots on Sunday then make no mistake, the Broncos win easy.